Path To College: 11th Grade
11th Grade is Time to Focus
Junior year of high school is when you really start to engage in active college preparation.
This year, your goal will be to focus on the skills and activities that you’ll want to highlight on your application. And you’ll want to start imagining what your college journey might look like.
Focus on Academics
Academics should be a key focus of your junior year.
Take the most advanced classes you can, especially in areas that interest you. However, it’s ok not to take every AP course—too much work can be stressful and may compromise your GPA.
Remember to focus on developing quality organizational skills, good time management skills, and excellent note taking skills and study habits. These skills will help you continue to succeed in high school and set you up for success in college as well.
If you find yourself falling behind, ask for the help you need. It is essential that you be proactive in your junior year as it is an important factor in the application process.
Build Relationships with Teachers and College Counselors
Your teachers and school counselors play a critical role in helping you prepare for college, especially your junior and senior years.
So don’t be shy—take the time to get to know them and to help them get to know you. These relationships will be critical once it’s time to ask for letters of recommendations.
Teachers are not required to write letters of recommendation for you. If you are disengaged in class or consistently misbehaving, your teachers can choose not to write your letter. Additionally, if you violate the Magnet Code of Ethics, your teachers would have to disclose the offense to colleges and universities in a letter of recommendation, ultimately negatively impacting your application. Therefore, think ahead as you are making choices your junior year.
Begin College Research
During your junior year, you’ll want to start building a list of potential colleges and fields of study. Some specific factors to think about during this research phase include:
- Public or private
- Available programs of study
- Specialized programs you may be interested in
- Sports, clubs, and extracurriculars
- Atmosphere and student body
- Cost and potential for available scholarships
Attending college fairs is a great way to learn about many different schools and hear directly from admissions officers.
Your research should also include some college tours and discussions with college admissions officers.
It’s ok if you don’t have the time or the money to plan an extensive tour visiting college campuses around the country, however. Visiting local colleges is a great way to explore different types of colleges to see what you might like.
And many colleges today offer virtual tours and meetings with admissions officers.
Take the SAT or ACT
If you plan to take standardized tests, you’ll want to complete one before the end of your junior year. If you don’t like your score, you have time to study and retake the test again before applications are due.
The two most common standardized tests are the SAT and the ACT. If a college requires standardized tests, they will likely accept either of these two tests. However, you should check specific admission requirements at colleges where you are likely to apply.
Sign up for a Summer College Program
Taking a college class may be one of the best things you can do to prepare for college life.
Participating in a college program for high school students will help you understand the difference between high school and college academics. It will give you the opportunity to explore a potential major. Depending on the program, you may even be able to earn college credit.
And living on a college campus will give you a preview of what it’s like to make decisions on your own and balance studying with socializing.
11th Grade Timeline
SET GOALS FOR THE YEAR
Before you even begin your college search, your school counselor can make sure you’re on track to meet your academic obligations and connect you with resources and timelines. Be proactive! It’s up to you to schedule appointments and get help when you have questions.
TAKE THE PRELIMINARY SAT/NATIONAL MERIT SCHOLARSHIP QUALIFYING TEST (PSAT/NMSQT)
The PSAT is a standardized exam your high school administers in October. It will prepare you to take the SAT (a standardized entrance exam required by some colleges), but it also serves as a qualifying test for the National Merit Scholarship Program.
ADVOCATE FOR YOURSELF
If you need support, be sure to reach out to your teachers, counselor, and/or parents, so that you are getting the help you need and not falling behind in your classwork.
COMPILE YOUR INITIAL LIST OF COLLEGES
There are lots of colleges and universities out there and just as many ways to learn which ones might be a good fit for you. Start your search by attending college fairs and meeting with college admission representatives who visit your high school or community. Do your research, take notes, and meet with your school counselor to further shape your college list. Naviance will help with this step.
STUDY, PREPARE, AND REGISTER FOR STANDARDIZED TESTS
Standardized tests – including the SAT, ACT and SAT subject tests – can help colleges assess how ready you are for college-level coursework. Talk with your counselor about what test preparation opportunities may be available, which tests you should take, and how to determine the testing requirements for the colleges you are considering.
Did you know? More than 1,000 four-year colleges and universities do not use the SAT or ACT in the admissions process. Visit FairTest to learn more and to access a searchable database of test-optional schools.
REFLECT AND REASSESS
Over Winter Break, take some time to reflect on Fall semester. Are your study habits getting you the results you want and need? Do you need to do something different in a particular class to get a better result? Do you need more social-emotional support?
THINK ABOUT THE SUMMER
Over Winter Break, research possible Summer programs and internships you are interested in applying to. Be sure to understand the requirements of the application, and possibly begin the process while you do not have school work.
PLAN YOUR SENIOR YEAR CLASS SCHEDULE
Your academic record is an important piece of your college application, and admission officers want to see how you’ve challenged yourself. When it’s time to plan your senior year schedule, talk with your teachers and counselors about advanced options, such as Honors, AP, IB, or dual enrollment courses. Keep in mind, just because you can take every advanced class available doesn’t mean you should. It’s important to find the right balance between what will challenge you and where you’ll be successful.
CREATE A COMMON APP ACCOUNT
Now is a great time to start exploring the application so you know what questions you’ll be asked. You can create a Common App account at any time, and your account can rollover from year to year, using the same username and password. Your college list and any questions you answer on the ‘Common App’ tab will rollover next year – when you’re ready to apply – so you can begin answering questions in these seven sections: Profile, Family, Education, Testing, Activities, Writing, and Courses & Grades.
FIND YOUR RECOMMENDERS
Letters of recommendation help colleges get to know you better as a person and student. Don’t wait until senior year to start thinking about who you would like to ask for recommendations. Be sure to understand what the requirements are for securing a recommender. Remember: Not all colleges require or accept letters of recommendation. You should familiarize yourself with the requirements of each of your schools prior to asking for letters of recommendation.
MAKE MEANINGFUL SUMMER PLANS, BUT DON’T FORGET TO RELAX
By the time summer rolls around, you’ll be ready for a vacation. Reward yourself by taking time to decompress, while also taking part in a meaningful activity or two. Volunteer in your community. Get a part-time job. Consider a summer camp in a sport or area of interest. These activities will do more than develop your character and strengthen your skills. They’ll also tell college admission officers you care about your future.
VISIT COLLEGE CAMPUSES IN PERSON OR VIRTUALLY
The best way to get a sense of whether or not a college or university is right for you is to visit the campus. Attend an information session, take a campus tour, talk with students, and visit a class if possible.
If you can’t make it to campus in person, take advantage of the virtual tours offered by many colleges and universities.
Pro tip: Many colleges and universities offer special visit days and fly-in programs. Talk with your school counselor or contact admissions offices to find out what visit opportunities exist for you.
NARROW DOWN AND DISCUSS YOUR LIST OF COLLEGES
Once you’ve had a chance to research, visit, and/or virtually tour colleges, you’ll have a better idea of what you’re looking for in a school. When you receive your junior year grades and any college entrance exam scores, you’ll know how your credentials stack up to a college’s acceptance ranges. Discuss your college choices with your parents and school counselor to ensure your list is reasonable and balanced.
WORK DILIGENTLY ON YOUR SENIOR SUMMER ASSIGNMENTS
Part of the summer assignment your senior year is to write a few of your college essays. Write them with fidelity, so that they are ready for the revision process once you return to school in August.